The Jewish Chronicles | Daniel Cainer
The Jewish Chronicles is essentially a collection of songs by UK based singer/songwriter Daniel Cainer about his Jewish culture. You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the humour and the more serious sentiments, but it probably does help.
Cainer’s inter-song banter mainly consists of explaining the Yiddish words and Jewish terminology in the lyrics that non-Jews may not know and some well-worn but perpetually funny Jewish humour. It’s hard to tell what Cainer’s personal relationship to Judiasm is now. He gives hints of a childhood filled with paradoxes - his parents sent him to Anglican school, yet they followed some orthodox Jewish practices at home. He says that he was distant from religion for a long time and seems to have reconnected to it through writing The Jewish Chronicles.
It’s the songs that are definitely the highlight of the show and ultimately, as a collection, evoke a universal sense of Jewish culture and family heritage. They are amazing collections of musical styles, from klezimer to ragtime to pop with lyrics which playfully mix the English and Yiddish languages. Many even sound Jewish, drawing on musical motifs of ancient Jewish prayers and traditional song. They are all cleverly composed and presented on either keyboard or guitar.
Many are epic tales in themselves, narrating complex and tangled relationships of Cainer’s ancestors and Jewish figures that go on for ten minutes or more. There are feuding tailors (Tale of Two Tailors), a cocaine dealing Rabbi (Bad Rabbi) and extra-marital affairs straight out of a soap opera (Surbiton Washarama). Others, like God Knows Where and Wrong Side of the Wall are more melancholic, ruminating on Jewish immigration and Israel. With such dense musical material, it’s no wonder that Cainer only got through seven songs in the space of 80 minutes.
While Cainer’s music is brilliant, weaving humour and seriousness, his chatter could be more focused and substantial, content-wise, especially considering that he is preaching to the converted. At Saturday night’s performance he had trouble rousing the mostly older crowd. He worked hard for audience response, spruiking for vocal interaction to figure out who was Jew and who non-Jew. The cavernous venue didn’t help since he was far away from his audience and at times, there were glitches with audio.
Luckily, when The Jewish Chronicles has a slightly under night, there’s always the CD to put things right! Cainer’s unique songs are what it’s about. Individually or in collection, they go the distance even when live performance conditions are less than ideal.
Global Shtetl & Watchdog Communications
The Jewish Chronicles
Venue: Theatreworks | 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Dates: 31 March - 10 April, 2010
Times: Tue - Sun 8pm & Sun 2pm
Duration: 75 minutes
Prices: Full $30, Concession $25
Bookings: 03 9534 3388 | theatreworks.org.au | At the door
Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach
Dates: 13 - 18 April, 2010
Times: Tues - Sat 8pm, Sundays 5pm and 7.30pm
Tickets: $30.00, Concession $25.00 (group discounts available)
Bookings: 1300 306 776 | www.mca-tix.com.au